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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

Given by Bishop Loverde for the Quo Vadis Days Opening Mass at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

Dear brothers and sisters all in Christ Jesus, but in a very special way, the participants in this year’s Quo Vadis Days. My words are particularly addressed to you, dear young brothers.

Imagine this! God is standing before you and saying to you, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” What would you say? What would you do? It is mind-boggling almost! Now you would probably answer me: that could not happen. But it did, to Solomon, a mere youth, a young person like you, and we heard this in today’s first reading. The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night, and God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” And this happened not only once to Solomon, but it has been happening over and over again. And it is happening now — here! God is saying to each of you who are taking part in these Quo Vadis Days, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you!” So what will you answer?

Quo Vadis BishopI hope that you will echo Solomon: “Lord, give me an understanding heart, a heart that is able to distinguish right from wrong.” And why do I hope that you will ask for an understanding heart? Because an understanding heart is open to God’s plan. Yes, God has a plan for each one of us. Inner peace and true fulfillment can only be found when each one of us is in tune with God’s plan, whatever it may be.

“But,” you ask, “what is God’s plan for me? After all, if inner peace and true fulfillment can only be found when each one of us is in tune with God’s plan, whatever that may be, then it is essential that we discover what is His plan, His will for my life.”

In today’s gospel account, Jesus is teaching us through story — telling, that is, He is using situations familiar to his audience in order to teach a lesson; this type of story — telling is called a parable. Every parable which Jesus uses has a very important point or lesson for us to learn.

As we just heard, Jesus uses two parables. The first is about a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again. Out of joy, he sells all that he has so that he can buy that field and possess the buried treasure. The second parable is about a merchant who is searching for fine pearls and when he finds one pearl of great price, sells all that he has to purchase that pearl.

In the first parable, the person is going about his daily business. He is working, and in this situation, he is digging the earth. As he digs, he suddenly discovers a buried treasure. So, he goes off to sell all he has so he can buy that field and possess that treasure himself. In the second parable, the merchant is actively searching for pearls of the highest quality. When he finds one pearl that is exceedingly beautiful, he too sells all he has so he can purchase that one precious pearl.

Notice that while treasure was discovered unexpectedly as the person was doing the work assigned to him, the merchant was actively searching for the pearls of great price. Notice that in each situation, when the treasure was discovered and the pearl was found, the person sold all he had to possess his discovery.

Now we need to apply to ourselves the lessons which Jesus is teaching us through these two parables. After all, Jesus is speaking in a special way to each of you as you begin these Quo Vadis Days.

The buried treasure or the pearl of great price — choose either one — is the symbol of the plan God has for each one of us — for each one of you! But God’s plan will not just suddenly appear, like the result of pressing an app on your cell phone. As you do the ordinary things in life each day, you must be open to discovering God’s plan when at some specific moment, His plan will begin to become clearer to you; you will begin to discern more His will for you. In other words, each day, you will need to be open to God’s will as it becomes known to you. You must become like Solomon, asking only for an understanding heart, a heart open to discover that buried treasure, a heart open to purchase the pearl of great price, because, remember: the treasure, the pearl, is really God’s plan for your life.

So, discovering God’s plan for you, His will, is not something passive, like lying around waiting for it to somehow almost magically appear. No, discovering God’s plan for you, His will, is something very active. You must be actively engaged. How? By learning how to be in personal contact with Jesus, Who so loves you, by developing and deepening a really personal relationship with Him within the Community of His Disciples, the Church. You must also be actively engaged by listening to your heart, not your feelings, to begin to discern what really attracts you in terms of your future adult life. You must also be actively engaged by coming to understand the basic ways in which you — and I — live out our Baptismal consecration. At Baptism, each one of us was set apart — consecrated — for God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that we can share in their union of love, in their life by imitating and following Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who came to be our Lord and Savior. In a word, God’s plan for each one of us is fundamentally to be like Jesus.

Saint Paul reminds us of this in the second reading today. “We know that all things work for good, for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Yes, God has chosen each one of us in advance, predestined us, to be conformed to the image of His Son, that is, to be like Jesus. So, first of all, each one of us is called to learn Jesus Christ, that is, to know Him as a person, as our Friend, our Companion, our Savior, our Lord. And this is what we mean when we say God calls us to live out our Baptismal consecration. But God’s plan for each of us becomes more specific and concrete as we grow from childhood through adolescence into adulthood. He wants us to be like Jesus in a specific or particular way: by living out the particular or individual vocation He wills for us.

So then, He wants us to be like Jesus in being a priest, or to be like Jesus in being a consecrated person as a religious brother or religious sister, or to be like Jesus in being married as a husband and father. There are wives and mothers among us, so He wants them to be like Jesus in being a wife and mother. He wants us to be like Jesus in being a single person pledged to chaste living for the sake of God’s Kingdom, or to be like Jesus in being a permanent deacon while also being married or unmarried. So then, we each have a fundamental or primary vocation to be like Jesus, as the faithful follower, disciple and friend. And we also each have a specific or individual calling or vocation to be like Jesus as a priest or a religious brother or religious sister, or a husband and father, or a wife and mother for those among us this afternoon, or a single person living chastely for the sake of God’s kingdom, or a permanent deacon.

Dear participants, in these Quo Vadis Days, learn more how to be with Jesus through daily prayer, and the reception of the sacraments, especially Penance and the Holy Eucharist. Learn more how to listen to your heart and how to seek the good advice of others as you discern what your heart is saying. Learn more how to never cease seeking God’s plan for you specifically, in your adult life. But above all, learn more how to discover the greatest treasure, the best pearl, that is, learn how to love Jesus Christ, to be with Him, to imitate and to follow Him all life long! “Quo Vadis,” I ask. I hear your answer: “To find and to be with Jesus my Lord!”

Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and his recent letter on the new evangelization, Go Forth with Hearts on Fire, are available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.

This homily first appeared in The Arlington Catholic Herald. View it here

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

In God’s providence, I am spending National Catholic Sisters Week (March 9-16) in Lowell, Michigan, at the Franciscan Life Process Center. I am with a group of college students and staff from Marymount University on their Spring Break service trip. Hence a trip to snowy Michigan, where the low last night was negative one, to work and pray with 14 Sisters from my Community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.

sistersThe students have spent the week serving schools, nursing homes, and programs where the Sisters provide counseling, education and music therapy, amongst many other experiences. For many of the students, they have never met nor interacted with Sisters before.

The questions are abundant! This will become more common with the decline of Sisters in the nation. As the culture moves away from God-centered lives, it will become harder for men and women to hear God asking them to sacrifice marriage and family and to radically follow Jesus in poverty, chastity and obedience as Religious Sisters, Priests and Brothers. To be sure, the “vocation crisis” includes ALL vocations. In addition to a decrease in priests and Sisters, we have a decrease in practicing Catholics, sacramental marriage, and men and women rejecting parenthood. …Not to mention the increase in divorce, cohabitation and birth control.

photoIn our nation, Sisters were the founding mothers of education, catechesis, healthcare, social services, and evangelization. Yes, they have been “successful” and done much. On Tuesday, I had the chance to visit with Sister Rita, who has been a Religious Sister for 82 years. As we visited, I marveled at this most accomplished woman, now blind and mostly deaf, now faithfully serving the Church in constant prayer and offering her suffering for others. Sister Rita is a woman — a mother, of prayer. Exactly what all Religious Sisters are called to be.

How many of our lives have been touched by Sisters? Personally, it was because of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist that my parents returned to the Catholic faith — something that saved their marriage and allowed them to provide a strong Catholic identity for their six children. While here at the Franciscan Life Process Center, I thought I would ask others how Sisters have affected their lives.

  • Allison: “I had never met a Sister until I was in my 40s. Then, when my husband died unexpectedly last year, it was Sister Colleen Ann who came within 20 minutes of his death. She was the only one who could get through to my son. Truly, God had a plan for me to meet them.”
  • Dottie: “My daughter went to preschool here, and she now has a family and is a wonderful mother. I know it was because of the Sisters. And I even have a grandson who wants to become a Priest.”
  • The five Cole girls had a variety of reasons they love Sisters: Hannah, 7, and Monica, 4, like their veils. Alyssa, 12, is grateful that Sisters pray for people and help those in need. Olivia, 10, is happy they have helped her learn to play the piano, go camping and ice skating. Mikayla, 2, said they are nice. Their mother, Beth, finds that her daughters are more prayerful and strive to behave because of spending time with Sisters, adding that it would be alright with her if all five became Religious.
  • Kim: “I’ve learned patience! The Sisters have taught me how to slow down and not to waste. I was always taught that Sisters were unapproachable. I sent my children to preschool here and they fell in love with the Sisters…and I did too.”

As we celebrate Religious Sisters, let us pray in gratitude for the many ways they have ministered through service and in prayer, and ask God to bestow the graces young women need to say “yes” to this supernatural calling.

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

World Youth Days can produce fruit that lasts. I can testify as a product of five of them!

Blessed Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day in Poland

Blessed Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day in Poland

The soil was prepared in 1991, in Czestowchowa, Poland, with Pope John Paul II. Standing in a crowd of millions, I realized three things: I am not the only teenager in the world who loves the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II; I’m sticking with this faith; and I have to be open to my vocation.

The seeds were planted in Denver in 1993. I would be entering the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist days after returning. As Providence would have it, I traveled with a group from Connecticut, which included then Auxiliary Bishop Paul Loverde, (my “boss-to-be” 13 years later). I took most seriously John Paul II’s exhortation: “Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the “path to life” (Ps. 16:11).The challenge is to make the church’s yes to life concrete and effective. The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life! Have no fear.”

As a “seedling” sister, I traveled as a chaperone for Rome, in 2000. I renewed my vows in Assisi on August 11, the feast of St. Clare, and received the graces of being a pilgrim in Rome during the Jubilee Year.

In full bloom, I attended the World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002 as a presenter on the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, just weeks before making my Perpetual Vows as a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist.

If that wasn’t enough, I then had the opportunity to bear fruit by leading a group to Cologne, Germany, in 2005, with our new pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. Thank you Lord for the gift of experiencing your words: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

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By: Caitlin Bootsma

This Sunday is the World Day for Consecrated Life, a celebration established for the universal Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1997. Growing up, if I thought about it all, I would have said that “consecrated” was simply synonymous with “nuns” and “monks.” However, this designation actually applies to a myriad of men and women who are dedicated to the kingdom of God, including sisters, brothers, priests in religious orders, consecrated virgins, hermits and members of Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life (you can see a list here).

Jesus Himself was the model of consecrated life – remaining celibate and giving His entire life for the Church (even to the point of death). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus affirms the validity of the consecrated life saying, “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12).

Sisters of Life at the recent Life is Very Good rally (photo: Stephanie Richer)

Sisters of Life at the recent Life is Very Good rally (photo: Stephanie Richer)

Sunday is an opportunity for us to thank God for the many saintly men and women who consecrated themselves to the Lord for the good of the Church throughout history. In a particular way, we can pray for those consecrated that we’ve known in our life, for the strength of their vocation. Whether that be a religious sister who taught us in grade school, a hermit who prays for our intentions or a consecrated man or woman living in the world. We can, as well, pray for all of those who may be discerning a call to this way of life.

Bishop Loverde tells us,“I join all the members of our diocesan Church of Arlington in thanking God for the gift of consecrated life in the Church and in asking Him to renew in all the men and women living the consecrated life…a spirit of deepening intimacy with their Spouse the Lord Jesus and of faithful service to the Body of Christ and to the human family. I especially ask us to pray for those living the consecrated life within this diocese and, in your name and mine, I thank each of them for their service here” (statement for World Day for Consecrated Life, 2011)

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Six men are in the middle of their first year of studies as seminarians for the Diocese of Arlington. Along with 32 others, these seminarians are immersed in their discernment process, while also studying philosophy and theology and serving at many of our parishes.

Three of the seminarians were asked to share with us what their memorable experiences have been thus far in their formation. Don’t forget to keep them in your prayers as they listen to God’s calling for their lives. Find out more about Vocations in the Diocese of Arlington at www.arlingtonvocations.com.

koehr_seanSean Koehr: “My most rewarding experience in the seminary so far was going on an evangelization mission to Ball State University with my brother seminarians.  Trying to actively participate in the new evangelization enabled me to see the fruits of prayer and study in just a short period of time and it made me hungry for more.  Putting what I am learning into practice by striving to live it and communicate it to others has been a great source of growth and clarity for me.

“Arlington is special because of its youth-filled and zealous priests, as well as its many well-formed and well-educated lay people, who come from strong and generous families.  There is also a great devotion amongst them all for Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of confession, and a great love for Mary.”

majewski_jamesJames Majewski: “I will never forget the day I was told that Bishop Loverde had accepted my application to seminary. To be asked by Christ through His Church to embark upon the journey of priestly formation was an affirmation unlike any other – the consolation of which has truly stayed with me through my studies.

“Seminary life itself is a challenge! But it is such a tremendous blessing to have been accepted to seminary in the Year of Faith, and to be given the opportunity to deepen my faith through nearly every facet of life here. Seminary is so much more than just an education – Christ walks out of the classroom with you.

“Our Diocese has been tireless in fostering my vocation and helping me to discern. The Diocese of Arlington invests so much into her seminarians and future priests, and it is a privilege to be in a position to someday give back to the Diocese I have received so much from.”

schierer_nicholasNicholas Schierer: “40 Hours Devotion leading up to the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo was one of the most rewarding times as a seminarian so far.  For those three days, we had no classes and were able to simply pray during 40 continuous hours of adoration.

“To those who support vocations: Thank you for supporting us. I am praying for all of my benefactors. As seminarians, we are constantly in need to prayers to continue to recognize God’s Will in our continuing discernment of the priesthood.”

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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

With schedules crawling to a summer pace as vacations and long weekends appear on the horizon, along with prioritizing which tasks need to be accomplished each day and what meetings should be scheduled each week, we may find ourselves with more time to consider some deeper questions. This is a time to commit ourselves to asking with renewed curiosity: “Where is God leading me? How may I become an instrument to bring others closer to Him?”

These larger questions naturally encourage a consideration of one’s vocation. While the word “vocation” is used in a variety of ways, as a Church we understand it as a calling from God to which we are asked to respond. Blessed Pope John Paul II poses to us this question:

Deacon Silva with his family on the day of his diaconate ordination

“What do you seek, pilgrims? Each one of us here must ask himself this question. But you above all, since you have your life ahead of you. I invite you to decide definitively the direction of your way. With the very words of Christ, I ask you: ‘What do you seek’? (Jn 1:38). Do you seek God? The spiritual tradition of Christianity not only underlines the importance of our search for God. It highlights something more important still: it is God who looks for us. He comes out to meet us (Pope John Paul II, Compostela, Spain, 1989).

The challenges of discerning one’s vocation may make us feel as if we are divided into two camps: those of us who “have one” and those of us “who do not yet have one.” While it is true that some have not yet fully discovered God’s will for their calling in life, each of us is called on a day-to-day basis to discern how God wants to work through us.  Every day, each of us must take seriously that daily charge to live for Christ, in every aspect of our work, our relationships and our prayer.

Being caught up in the celebration and joy of those occasions, when we see the smiling faces of new priests or newly married couples, we may forget all the sacrifices and choices that were made before each person arrived at that point.  Recently ordained priests or new spouses did not reach that pivotal moment without considerable discernment and dedication to living lives of holiness. Each of them asked deep questions, facing their own lives with honesty: “How am I called to live my life?” “How may I best serve God?” “Will I give my life to the Church?” “Is this person next to me the one I want to live with for the rest of my given years?”

Intellectually, it is easy to understand that in major decisions, timing is extremely important and, as the familiar adage tells us, that “good things come to those who wait.”  Practically speaking, however, living with patience and commitment to the present day can be stressful and taxing, especially when one is young and bursting forth with energy.  Young people often understand very clearly that they are called to do great things for Christ, but sometimes, waiting for the “what” and the “when,” that comes with true discernment may lead to discouragement or the temptation to doubt that the Lord has a plan.

I urge you brothers and sisters, to be at peace and know that God does indeed have a plan for each of us – a very special and unique plan! You need only to look to priests that you admire or couples for whom you have great respect to know that Our Lord also desires to call you to a life of happiness with Him.

Regardless of where you are in your vocational discernment, I encourage you to view summer as a time to take a step back, to ask Our Lord about the major decisions in your life and to take the next step on the path of holiness on which He is leading you! Keep in mind that every day, God calls us to the joy of deepening intimacy with Him. After all, this is the universal vocation to holiness, from which every other more specific vocation flows.

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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

It is with a grateful heart that I praise God for the 34 seminarians who are actively discerning a life of service to Christ and His Church in our diocese. The sacrifices they have made and will make to become spiritual fathers of the faithful should not be overlooked or underestimated. We should all make frequent and fervent attempts to support them through prayer, service and encouragement.

Bishop Loverde, Fr. Wagner and diocesan seminarians in front of St. Peter's Basilica.

Next week, I have the privilege of traveling to Rome to visit the seven young men from the Diocese of Arlington who are currently discerning and studying at the Pontifical North American College in Vatican City. During this time of year, I make an effort to visit each seminarian and their seminary rector. Myself a priest who has benefited from camaraderie with many priests and bishops, I value the bonds we form and know that they are crucial on the path to ordination and during their time – God willing – as priests of the Diocese of Arlington.

In addition to the men studying in Rome, we currently have men studying at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary (Emmitsburg, Md.), Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary (Wynnewood, Pa.), Blessed John XXIII National Seminary (Weston, Ma.), Pontifical College Josephinum (Columbus, Ohio), and the Theological College (Washington, D.C.). I will visit each of them as the winter progresses. In addition to 34 seminarians, we also have 27 men in formation for the permanent diaconate and 22 men and 27 women in formation for the religious life.

This upcoming trip is also special for me because the Pontifical North American College is where I spent several formative years as a seminarian. I can personally attest to the solid formation and education that the college provides for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

Bishop Loverde, Fr. Wagner and diocesan seminarians at a side chapel in St. Peter's.

While these men have the opportunity to pursue their vocation in Vatican City, each of us relies on the same tools to pursue our own vocation: prayer, study and fellowship. We are all part of the Body of Christ: whether here in the U.S. or abroad, whether discerning a call to religious life or faithfully living out our call to married life, we are united in His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

I hope to have the honor of seeing the Holy Father during the Wednesday General Audience, and I will bring to him all of your prayers of support. As I prepare to depart for Rome, please join me in praying for our seminarians and for those considering the priesthood, as well as in giving thanks for the continued thriving of vocations in the Diocese of Arlington.

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By: Mariann Hughes, Office of Communications

In a ceremony marked by beauty and joy, 16 men were ordained for service in the Arlington Diocese to the permanent diaconate by Bishop Paul S. Loverde on Jan. 15. at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More.

Fr. Ferguson, Episcopal Vicar for Faith Formation, presents the deacon candidates to Bishop Loverde.

A deacon candidate goes to Bishop Loverde and kneels before him, placing his joined hands between the bishop's.

The candidates prostrate themselves in the ancient gesture of supplication and the dying to self.

While the candidates lay on the steps, the cantor leads the faithful in the singing of a litany.

The litany is concluded by a prayer by Bishop Loverde.

The candidates again go to Bishop Loverde and kneel before him. He lays his hands on the head of each candidate in silence. The laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration which follows constitute the essential elements of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

After the prayer of consecration, an assisting deacon or priest puts a deacon's stole and a dalmatic on the newly ordained. Here, Fr. Frank Hull, pastor of St. Joseph's, Alexandria, does so to Deacon Albert Anderson, Jr.

Vested as a deacon, the newly ordained goes to the bishop and kneels before him. Bishop Loverde presents the Book of Gospels to the deacon.

Bishop Loverde stands and gives the kiss of peace to each of the new deacons.

The new deacons are also greeted by the other deacons present.

This is a sign of welcome and fraternity within the Order of the Diaconate.

These 16 men will be crucial contributors to the vibrant faith life in the parishes to which they are assigned. They will serve by the Word, at the altar, and by acts of charity.

The men received much support at the Mass from their families, loved ones, parish priests, and the men currently in formation for the permanent diaconate.

Three wives of the deacons listen to the First Reading during the Mass.

Deacon Powers expressed the joy he anticipated here in this blog post. Rev. Thomas Ferguson and Bishop Loverde also blogged in anticipation of this joyful day.

Check the new deacon assignments on the diocesan website.

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By: Caitlin Forst

In the end, the Seminarians beat the Quo Vadis Men

Diocesan seminarians teamed up to play Quo Vadis, a high school men’s discernment group, in basketball during the second annual Hoops Challenge. It was a fierce competition, certainly, but it was also an opportunity for these groups to gather together. The teams and many of those watching had a common interest: seeking God’s guidance in their lives.

January 10-15 is National Vocations Awareness Week in the United States. It’s true that we should always be aware of how and where God is calling us, but we often get distracted. This week helps us to focus on vocational discernment.

You may have heard a seminarian tell his vocation story this past Sunday at your parish. Perhaps he mentioned that at one point he heard God’s call in his life, but for a while he was distracted by other endeavors. If that sort of distraction sounds familiar, this week is an opportunity to spend some time in prayer asking God for direction in your life.

This week is not only for young people, but for each of us to renew our dedication to living lives of holiness. Even if you are already a spouse, parent, religious, consecrated lay person or a priest, we still need continual grace to live our vocations.

Fr. Bashista leads the seminarians and Quo Vadis men in prayer of thanksgiving after the game.

Also, as part of the Body of Christ, we are called to pray that each laborer in God’s vineyard follows the Lord’s invitation to follow Him in the vocation He has chosen for him or her, building up the people of God.

Take a moment to join us the following prayer and  visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s site, For Your Vocation:

Father in heaven, you sent us your
only Son to redeem us and to build
your kingdom on earth. Please give
us the wisdom and strength we need
to follow His call. Grant to the faithful
a spirit of generosity, that Church
vocations may flourish. Bless our
priests with holiness and courage,
that they may lead your people to
Christ. Help all sisters and brothers
to fulfill their sacred promises and so
be effective signs of your kingdom.
Lord, invite more men and women
to your service. We ask this through
Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Check out all of the photos from the Hoops Challenge here!)

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In June 2010, three men were ordained to the priesthood.

The inaugural year of Encourage and Teach (which launched during Holy Week) was a busy one. We’ve been excited to share with you posts from Bishop Paul Loverde and other contributors, to comment on current events and to discuss hot-button issues.

Here are ten posts that ranked as some of the most-read of 2010. I’d like to share them with you again at the beginning of 2011, as I think they provide a glimpse into the important events and discussions of the past year:

Events in our Diocesan Church:

Current Events:

Are you a frog in boiling water?

Hot-Button Issues:

Thanks for reading and commenting this year! Don’t forget that you can subscribe to our posts and share them with family and friends.

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